The Spirit and the Word

The Spirit works through the Word. It is not that he is unable to work through another means, it is that he has limited himself and chosen to work through the means the Godhead has ordained: the Word.

The Spirit’s working is necessary for us to understand the witness of the Scriptures. We are limited not only by our being (we temporal and finite creatures cannot comprehend an eternal and infinite God) but also by our sinfulness, the effects of which have muted our ability to comprehend the truth of God. We must also admit that there is a certain degree of uncertainty with regard to spiritual matters and so the Spirit, using the Word, must not only open our eyes to the truth of God, but also confirm in our hearts the truth that has been proclaimed.

In John’s gospel, Jesus laid out four functions of the Spirit and each of them is fundamentally connected to the Word. (1) The Spirit teaches us all things and bring to remembrance what Jesus taught (John 14:16). This he does for us today through the Bible.

(2) The Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus and we to witness to Jesus (John 15:26-27). This can only happen through the Word since Jesus is not bodily present with us in this age.

(3) The Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8f.). This the Spirit does when the Word is preached.

(4) The Spirit guides us into truth and does not speak that truth on his own authority (John 16:13) but instead glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). This he does through the Word, which serves as the testimony of the God who gave it and which has Jesus as its center.

I don’t think I have to remind you that the Spirit is called the Spirit of truth just as the Word is the Word of truth.

We have a tendency to latch on to modern (some of these might be postmodern) things such as music, drama, dialogue, or movies and videos, to reach the lost, and some of these things might very well be effective in building an organization. But we are to be doing the Lord’s work, which is not to see how many warm bodies we can cram into the church on a so-called “big day” just to say that we had a certain number of people present. We cannot be smarter than God and when it comes to church work, the God-ordained method of reaching people is through the ministry of the Word.

The Spirit continues his ministry of calling the elect to salvation just as he continues his witness within the believer, and since he continues both of these through the Word, the church should revolve around the proclamation of the Word because it is in that Word and its proclamation that we find Christ.

Sadly, the church today has decided that the testimony of the Bible is not sufficient. We rely upon other disciplines such as psychology and sociology to reach the lost and disciple believers. We rely upon philosophy to express our theology. We rely upon business to function as a church. While these and other disciplines may have things to offer us in the expression and articulation of our faith, we are to be people of the book.

This is why the Bible must be such an integral part of the church’s belief and life. Our knowledge of Jesus Christ is wrapped up in the witness of the Scriptures, the Spirit himself chooses to work through the Scriptures, the church’s worship and life is based upon the teachings of Scripture, and we as individual believers are to live our lives based upon the principles of Scriptures.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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